Early this morning after I let out Charlie to do his business in the garden, I just happened to be gazing at dawn’s pearl grey sky when a flock of Canada geese floated pass, not in formation, but a more or less wobbly line, a good dozen, at least. They emitted no sounds, no flapping, no honking.
My cousin Charley–not the Cocker spaniel but a man–later commented that these are the males getting ready to fly south. How does he know they were male and not female?
Canada geese bear no distinguishing markings or colorings. Both genders sport black heads and necks, white patches on their faces, light-colored chests, and brownish-grey plumage, quite unlike the mallard duck whose male sports a hunter’s green head and the female plain brown.
So, how can a bird-watcher make a distinction between the two? Well, the male is about ten percent bigger than the female, for one thing, and the male honks whereas the female hinks. I’m not kidding. Look it up. While I was looking up this morning, however, these particular geese in that particular formation neither honked nor hinked. And they were all the same size.
And all of them are, indeed, getting ready for fall and winter, just as assuredly as squirrels begin to squirrel away nuts and acorns, farmers and orchardists gather their harvests for market, and I begin to think of preserving winter fruits for chutneys and cobblers and rustic pies.
Yesterday, I processed six pints of sliced O’Henry peaches for the freezer. (I was too late for my favorite Elbertas at Johnson’s Orchards.) Freezing is much easier than canning, but I do hope to put up a few jars of jam and chutney. That reminds me that I must check my pantry for cumin and curry, and restock my supply of yellow Spanish onions — called “Walla Wallas” in Washington state — purchase mustard seed and boxes of golden raisins. It’s been at least four years since I’ve made any chutneys, but I still have bottles of cider vinegars.
Peach chutney goes well with a roast pork Sunday dinner, or spooned over French toast and little sausages on a chilly morning. Tomato chutney makes a delightful accompaniment to roast pork, as well, and with lamb shanks slow cooked in wine and beef broth and plenty of herbes d’provence, and maybe a single bay leaf.
Since I neglected to grow tomatoes this year, I shall have to trek down to Imperial’s farmers’ market in the Lower Valley and stock up. There, however, I’m apt to find lovely, lumpy heritage tomatoes, and I am loathe to damage the integrity of their poetic bumps and curves. Instead, I shall have to line them up along my kitchen window sill, as Mother used to line up her huge red beefsteaks from the garden until ready for slicing for bread and mayonnaise sandwiches for summer lunches. Maybe Imperial’s will have plain green tomatoes left over.
As for the geese, who knows which gender makes the better roast for Christmas dinner? In either case, tomato chutney would go nicely on the side, I’m sure. Peach chutney is for brunch.